Sunday, September 11, 2011

Imaginary Girls

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Dutton, 2011
237 pages
YA; Magical Realism
3/5 stars

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to read this book because it's about SISTERS! Ruby is 5 1/2 years older than Chloe; she's beautiful, popular, magnetic and everyone knows it. However after the discovery of Chloe's classmate, dead of an overdose, Chloe leaves to live with her father. Until two years later when Ruby travels to bring Chloe home and thereby fix everything.

This book is kind of creepy because while ostensibly a contemporary for much of the book, there always seems to be some magic lurking. Ruby is able to get pretty much anyone in their small town to do pretty much anything for her; they all adore her that much. And she feels no compunction about bending them to their will. In general, she's ruthless, selfish, and mean, except for in her relationship to Chloe. Sharing an alcoholic mother and being the older sister has given Ruby a great emotional stake in Chloe. They are sisters with their own special language and precious memories, with Ruby willing to do ANYTHING for her sister as can be seen in the ending. The desire of an older sister to protect her younger sister is very poignant to me as an older sister who would do a lot to protect her younger sister.

Meanwhile Chloe doesn't have much of a personality as she has spent years living in Ruby's shadow.  She doesn't even think highly of herself because she knows she's not Ruby. And that is what is repeated ad nauseam; that Chloe isn't Ruby, that she doesn't have boys falling over backwards to do her bidding, that she doesn't seem to command the same amount of attention. This caused me to care less about Chloe even as she's the narrator. Like her, my attention was fixated on Ruby. The other characters weren't of much interest especially the loser boy who temporarily occupies some of Chloe's interest-he sounded disgusting with his infrequently dyed hair and reliance on pot.

The other big element to mention is the "magical realism" as I've seen used in other reviews; in some ways this book reminded me of Bleeding Violet for its inventive combination of a contemporary setting with fantastical elements.  I can't speak to much about it because that would mean spoilers but the way the dread comes over you as you puzzle out what happened that dark night that led to one of Chloe's classmates dead and its aftermath was very well-done.

Overall: I enjoyed the sister-sister relationship but Chloe wasn't fleshed out enough for me to really love this book.


  1. Thanks for sharing today, I have been wondering about this one:)

  2. I love reading books about sisters too! The whole younger-sister-hides-in-the-shadow-of-older-sister thing seems to be really popular in YA these days, but I like that they're always so different. I think I might pick this one up!

    You always write such awesome and honest reviews, B! This one is no exception! :)


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